Protecting our children is the fundamental reason many of us own and carry our firearms. Securing those firearms in our homes is just as important as understanding how to use them in the outside world. Let’s take a look at the laws in your state regarding securing firearms from children.
In Florida, the law says, “It is a crime if you store or leave a loaded firearm on a premises under your control and you know or reasonably should have known that a minor is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the minor’s parent or guardian or without the supervision required by law.” To understand this law, we need to break it down into its core components.
How does the law define a minor?
How old is a minor under the law? A minor means anyone younger than 16 years of age.
What is a “loaded firearm?”
Florida law does not define the term “loaded firearm,” but will certainly treat a firearm as loaded if it is loaded with ammo, whether or not there is a round in the chamber. To avoid culpability under this law, you must secure your firearm.
How is “secure” defined?
The statute gives guidance as to the manner in which you should secure your firearm. The law states that if a minor is likely to gain access to a firearm, then you are required to keep the firearm in a securely locked box or container or a location, which a reasonable person would believe to be secure or secure it with a trigger lock. Of course, when you are carrying the firearm or keeping it close enough that you can easily and quickly retrieve it, you are not required to keep it locked.
One important exception to this requirement that your firearm not be accessed by a minor is if that minor gets your firearm as a result of an unlawful entry, then you would not be guilty of a crime. So, if you wake up in the morning and find your car has been broken into and your firearm, which was locked inside it, has been stolen, you do not need to worry about being arrested if the firearm is later used in a crime or used by a minor.
If a minor gets ahold of your loaded firearm, it is a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable by up to 60 days in jail, a $500 fine, and up to six months on probation. However, in order for you to actually be charged with this crime, not only does a minor have to access your loaded firearm because you failed to store it in the required manner, but the minor must then possess or exhibit it without the supervision required by law in a public place or in the presence of another person in a rude, careless, angry, or threatening manner not necessary in self-defense.
As you have just seen, if a minor gains access to your firearm and uses it in lawful self-defense, then there is no crime committed. However, if that minor uses the gun to cause injury to another person or himself, you could face felony charges for culpable negligence and face up to five years in prison. Practically speaking, keeping a minor from getting ahold of a firearm is always a priority. However, if someone breaks into your home and your child defends themselves, you have not committed a crime under Florida law.
If you have any questions about the legality of storing your firearms, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to an Independent Program Attorney.